One girl, one XT250, many kilometers from Australia to The Netherlands, Chick on the Chook Chaser

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Chick on the Chook, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    wow....what an inspiration!

    strong will and positive attitude can make it happen. you're doing it.

    subscribed.
  2. Grynch

    Grynch Long timer

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    Leonie and Peter stayed with us in the San Francisco Bay area. Great people!

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  3. LuigiTheCracker

    LuigiTheCracker Adventurer

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    Where to next? When are you back in Netherlands?

    Sent from my SM-N920V using Tapatalk
  4. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Slowly moving through central Asia. the internet here is scarce, so the updates will be too. Apologies for that but I hope you still enjoy the adventures :)

    September 16, 2016

    Quietly, not to wake my hosts up, I packed the bike. At 9 AM I pushed the start button for the 670 km journey to Osh. Once the city traffic was behind me, I opened the throttle and basically kept it open the entire day. When needed I stopped for fuel and when I couldn’t resist I stopped for photo’s. The ride was stunning. Incredible mountains and deep blue lakes and rivers. There was one high pass, between Bishkek and Toktogul lake. After that is was all downhill or flat, often nice and windy while following the river. Around 7.30 the sun was sinking and the biggest full moon appeared over the hills. There were still about 100 kilometers to cover. I decided to keep going so I could make it to the mechanic in Osh tomorrow, Saturday. For the first time on this trip the GPS wasn’t working. It couldn’t find the highway and kept sending me into the fields. Some friendly locals pointed me in the right direction, and around 9 I reached the city. Here the GPS issues seemed to be gone and it send me, through a maze of one way streets to TES guesthouse. This place is a real overlanders hot spot. Cars, cyclists and bikes, they are all there. I was exhausted and glad to have made it after a 12 hour ride with stops no longer than a toilet trip. The lovely people at this place allow you to camp in the garden, and so I did. Within minutes of checking in, some fellow Dutchies and a German couple offered to share their pizzas. My stomach was rumbling and my body too tired to go anywhere. This was an offer you can’t refuse. After pizza and some great story telling I put my head on a raincoat&hoodie-pillow and slept like a log.

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    September 17, 2016

    Today is a combination of Xmas and a day at a spa. Not for me, but for the Chook Chaser. After all the beatings it’s been through in Asia, and the distinct lack of proper mechanics there, it was about time to give it a full service. I took it to Muztoo. A place ran by a Swiss guy named Patrick. He speaks perfect English, knows his bike mechanics and understands the needs of overland travellers. He and his mechanics took good care of my two wheeler. New tyres, oil, oil filter, change of sprocket, valve clearance and a few more things. While I was there, two Dutch guys arrived on an Africa Twin. One of them had arranged to buy a bike there. They planned to travel the exact same route I will be doing. Then an organised group of 10 Dutch men walked through the workshop doors. This was the largest congregation of Dutchies I’d seen for years! After the work on the bike was done the men invited me for dinner. It was a fun night with good food, old bike trip stories and most importantly, good company.

    September 18, 2016

    With Joeri and Peter, the two Dutchmen I met yesterday, I went to visit the animal market. It was a busy bustle of Kyrgyz men, goats, sheep, cows, horses and one yak. I can’t imagine business being done like this in Europe. Once we had enough of the livestock noises we made our way to the normal market. The bazaar in Osh is one of the largest ones in Central Asia, and worth a visit if you’re in town. We ate two kilo of the best grapes and did some more shopping before returning to the guesthouse. Here I had some arts and crafts to do. Every time it rains my hands get wet and super cold. Since fall and winter are on our doorstep, I decided to fabricate waterproof hand covers out of old rain pants. A little piece of Velcro from the overlanding neighbours and a lot of superglue, and voila, no more wet hands. Or at least, that’s the plan. Now we wait until it rains to try them out.

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    September 19, 2016

    Yesterday I found out the new front tyre wasn’t fitted properly. Usually when it’s not perfectly in the beat it will pop in when riding it, but yesterday’s ride didn’t put it in place. So I went for a little trip back to Muztoo. A bit of grease on the tyre and some well directed force solved the issue. By the time I got back to the guesthouse it was too late to start riding. Instead I made good use of the last internet I’d see for a week and shared travel tips with the other overlanders.

    September 20, 2016

    We had one more luxury breakfast at the guesthouse. Bought a bucket load of nuts, dates, cookies, two minute noodles and bread. Piled all our belongings and food supplies for the Pamir highway on the bikes and 4 hours later we were finally ready to go. Since Joeri and Peter were travelling in the same direction, we decided to team up for a few days. The road from Osh towards the Tajik border was perfect tarmac. Only typical Kyrgyz traffic, sheep and horses on the road, could slow us down. Before entering the next country we planned to ride up to Peak Lenin basecamp. A stunning road through the valley took us to a small village called Sary Mogul. It was too late to ride to the mountain now, so instead we stayed at a lovely homestay and planned the route through the Pamir.

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    September 21,

    We woke up early and excited. Had two eggs, bread and tea for breakfast and geared up to ride to basecamp. We left most of our bags in the guesthouse as we planned to come back here after riding up, and then head to Tajikistan. The gravel road to basecamp led straight through the valley. The mountains we were heading towards were covered in snow. The grass was yellowish green, the sky bright blue. With the warm sunlight of the early morning it looked like we were in a Touratech photoshoot. What an incredible place! Peter never rode a bike on gravel before and was having the time of his life. Joeri and me were having loads of fun and stood still every kilometre to take pictures. But then our expedition came to an abrupt end. Peter’s bike refused service. We tried push starting, put more fuel in, checked the sparkplugs and the fuses. None of these easy to fix parts seemed to cause any trouble. Luckily both Joeri and I brought our full tool sets so we slowly began to disassemble the bike. The entire fuel delivery system, all the hoses and filters the reserve tap. It all looked fine. We checked the air filter and the throttle, still no luck. By now we were 4 hours into our mission and absolutely determined to find the cause. We used the service manual for Joeri’s Honda Africa Twin to diagnose the Yamaha. The more we checked, the more things we found to be in perfect working order. However the bike still didn’t start. We were far beyond our mechanical skills. Miraculously there was some internet connection. We contacted Patrick from Muztoo back in Osh. His advice: check the jet needle in the carburettor.

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    Right, so here we are, two mechanical pre-scholers and one total newby, halfway up a mountain. Do we pull apart the carburettor here and now? After long debate, an attempt at googling and some instructions from the Africa twin manual, we get to the conclusion that we will do anything to get the engine to start again. We remove everything that is in the way and carefully take the cover of the carb. One thing seems to be a little off, and we get excited that we might have found the problem. However, according to our favourite Swiss mechanical helpdesk, this is the overflow and it has absolutely no influence. We need to check the other parts in the carb. By now we are way out of our league and giving up looks like a viable option. But just then the 4 wheel drive campervan of the French couple arrives. We all spent time together at the hostel in Osh and Cyriel turns out to be an excellent mechanic. He takes charge and checks every little part of the carburettor. Nothing looks too bad so we clean it all and put it back together again. Meanwhile, some Swiss tourists came to have a look at the action and generously brought us tea and a left over lunch packet. We also stopped a truck, to maybe bring the bike down. It is now starting to get dark. With new energy from the food we reassemble the bike and once more press the start button. Still nothing, what a disappointment! Now the only thing to do is get the bike into the truck, which is already loaded up with cow poe (it is used here instead of wood for the fire). So there it goes, Peter’s bike, literally in the shit. Joeri and I carefully ride back in the dark over the gravel road. And then over the tarmac, in the pitch black night towards the guesthouse. Joeri accidentally blinds himself when he turns of his headlight, I nearly hit a horse that appears out of nowhere. Needless to say we are happy to make it to the guesthouse without further damage. There is food, a hot shower and a soft bed. All we could wish for after a day like this.
  5. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
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    And a few more images, too good to keep from you ;)

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  6. enfielddnepr

    enfielddnepr Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Assen, Netherlands
    Another Dutch admirer here!
    Wow, i just discovered this post- i do not visit this forum often- but wow, i'm jealous..
    Your trip makes my summer holiday to Romania on an enfield look like aan afternoon-walk.
    In an other report, i read that the chinese have the firm belief that motorcycles can explode any moment, and that's why you are not allowed in a fuel station.
    For some reason- maybe not the good ones- i also seem to favour small/light motorcycles for travelling.
    I admire the way you cope with the corrupt cops and visa/adninistrative hassle..
    I'm afraid i would loose self-control, not being fit to do this...
    maybe we, Dutch travellers can meet up sometime somewhere and share experiences..??
    A strange, almost creepy thing is, you look a lot like me.. you could easily be my sister!!
  7. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
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    So cool! Thanks for your reply! That sounds like a perfect summer holiday though, not at all a walk in the park. I'd love to see some pics of your Enfield!
    Yes us Dutchies can definitely meet up once I reach the motherland at the end of December :) Looking forward to it!
    10ecjed likes this.
  8. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
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    The Netherlands
    Because I'm a little behind with the updates... And the internet is getting more scarce, here is the next one :)


    September 22, 2016

    In the morning there is ice on the seat of the bike. I’m in no rush to have my fingers amputated so I take it slow. Unfortunately the three Dutchies will split up today. Peter and Joeri have to sort out the bike, I have to make it to Tajikistan. I wish them all the best and hope the bike will be in working order soon. Maybe we can meet up somewhere along the way. With a last hug we say goodbye. The border crossings are easy. But that can’t be said of the first 30 odd kilometres of the Pamir highway. Corrugated gravel and some sand. It then goes to tarmac with potholes, but soon after I’m flying though this moon-like landscape over a perfectly smooth road. I stop to have lunch at Karakul lake. Two curious local kids come and tell entire stories, which unfortunately I can’t understand a word of. But we share some peanuts and sultanas, a language spoken without words. Another 160 stunning kilometres take me to Murgab. There is again a washboard gravel pass, but the views make up for what the road lacks. This part of the Pamir is the bottle neck of Central Asia. All the overlanders go through here. So naturally the hotel is full of travellers with adventurous stories.

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    September 23, 2016

    Murgab is at about 4000 meter altitude, so it is not surprising the night was again extremely cold. Halfway through the morning I pack and go. Before hitting the road the tank needs to be filled. The petrol station here consists of a garage with fuel drums, from here the liquid is pumped in a big can and then funnelled into my tank. Since there is no exact measurement of the quantity the guy does his best to rip me off. But paying for more fuel then the size of my by-far-not-empty tank is obviously not happening. Once the fuel bill is settled I again find myself flying through this incredible landscape. The mountains with a dust of snow are awe-inspiring and the small blue lakes complete the picture. I turn of the main road, onto the gravel leading to Waghan Valley. There is a check post where the road meets the river. On this side of the river is Tajikistan, on the other side of the river Afghanistan. You can’t cross it, but they are still extremely careful. The guards check my passport and then my bags. They must have been bored and incredibly curious about this solo travelling woman. They checked absolutely everything in my bags. Everything, down to unwrapping tampons! So here I am, explaining to 18 years old soldiers who don’t speak any English or Russian, that a white piece of cotton is not drugs, but instead needs to be used for a woman’s period. You can imagine the dance I had to perform to get that message across! After an hour or so they allow me to pack again and let me go. I was pissed, the whole ordeal cost over two hours. Also no one else I talked to since had been checked that thoroughly… Once back on the road this part of the track appeared the most challenging. The gravel was either sandy or corrugated. The views were spectacular but it was hard to enjoy them while my bike was slowly rattling apart. Around 6pm I had enough, while avoiding pothole number 1167 the front wheel hit a big rock. The bike nearly went over. This was the cue to stop. A few kilometres further was an empty sandy stretch next to the road. Home for the night. I pitched the tent and cooked some basic dinner while watching the sun sink behind the snowcapped mountains. A suitable reward for a day of wrestling with the road and the Tajik military.

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    September 24, 2016

    Hot tea and some old fashioned oats for breakfast reminded me of the trip through Australia. In the red dessert this was our staple breakfast for 2 months. Now instead of flat emptiness I was looking at immense mountain. Breakfast finished, gear on the bike and good to go. After an hour of battling with the road it lead down to the valley and became notably better. There were little villages, locals working the fields, kids giving high fives. The intense blue river for years had carved the way through these mountains. It was magnificent. Around lunchtime I passed a familiar 4x4 with a group of travellers I crossed the border with. They invited me to visit the Yamchun fort and Bibi Fatima hot springs with them. After lunch we walked through the ancient ruins, savouring the 180 degree view of the valley. A dip in the cave-like hot spring completed a successfully relaxing day. Later at the hostel we had a simple but delicious dinner. The day ended with some entertaining conversations. The mixed nationalities of the group, Polish, Australian, English, Argentinian, Kiwi, Japanese, American, Dutch and Canadian created some great linguistical misunderstandings.

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    September 25, 2016

    Today the road should be better. Through the villages the gravel was interspersed with tarmac, later the tarmac was interspersed with gravel. The road was much better than I expected, so within 5 hours the city of Khorog was reached. Here the Pamir Lodge awaited. This Pamir travellers gathering point is the perfect place to exchange info for the ride. The group split up today, 4 of us arrived early and we were super surprised when the rest of last night’s gathering burst through the dorm door. We went to the only restaurant that was open on Sunday, the Indian. The place was packed with every possible tourist in town. The food was amazing, we all really missed these flavours! At the end of the night it appeared there were no taxis or busses and a 30 minute walk back was hardly appealing. So Henry, the Mongol Rally driving Kiwi, somehow found a local guy who happily drove the 9 of us back in his van. We all piled in with beers and the music at full blast, bumping around on the high quality Tajik road.

    Want more pics? Check out the Facebook page: Chick on the Chook Chaser

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  9. enfielddnepr

    enfielddnepr Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Assen, Netherlands
    Hi sis:-)
    Well, here's my report from this summer, it's in Dutch. but has pics.
    On the same website there's still my report from last year ( een nieuw, helaas kort avontuur van Sammie)
    Must be entertaining when you are bored.
    I have many questions for you.. maybe later..
    the link;
    http://www.motor-forum.nl/forum/list_messages/418784/0/Roemeni%EB-poging-3-1.html
  10. DeGraafvanSalland

    DeGraafvanSalland De Graaf van Salland

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    Reislustige familie zijn jullie !
  11. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
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    The Netherlands
    The last of the Pamirs had some interesting surprises...

    September 26, 2016

    I had two days and 600 km to get to Dushanbe, so I aimed for just over 300 today, and the rest tomorrow. But as soon as the road out of Khorog showed its true colours it was clear that that wasn’t going to happen. It was sealed but might as well not have been. Literally the potholes were held together with a bit of tar. What a beating! Then the bike started to pull to the right. Upon inspection everything seemed in order. Nothing was touching the wheels, the luggage was still in place… maybe the already dodgy head bearing were now really giving up… I got back on and rode a bit further. Then a sharp corner painstakingly clearly exposed the real problem. As I angled the bike the handle bars were shaking, the front wheel was sliding, the Chook Chaser behaved like a bucking horse. Flat tyre, without a doubt. Once I recovered from the shock of nearly being thrown of the bike and into the river, the diagnoses came as somewhat of a relief. This is easily fixed. I started taking the luggage of and propped the bike up on some rocks. I took the front wheel out. The change in weight distribution immediately made the bike topple over. Ah well, at least it can’t fall any further. I jumped on the wheel, brake disk up ;) and lifted the outer tyre of the rim. Just then the fifth car passed and stopped. Out jumped two Russian bike mechanics. Did I mention I’m the luckiest girl in the world? About 10 cars pass here every hour and when I have a flat two mechanics just happen to pass by within minutes. They generously offered their help and the tube was replaced within minutes. Not much later I was on the goat track again. Before the breakdown I’d been swearing at the Tajik road-building capabilities, now I was smiling and enjoying the views again. Grateful for the opportunity to be on this incredible journey. Much later than planned I reached the first city. Only 250 kilometers had passed under the rubber, but it was 7PM, getting dark and I was exhausted. While looking for a hostel familiar voices called from a side street. The Russian mechanics. They were support crew for a group of Spanish Enduro Riders. The group invited me to stay and have dinner together. It was a good night.

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    September 27, 2016

    There was a long debate about which road to take. North was the original Pamir highway, which was supposedly in worse condition than the more southerly option. However the south route was about 100 km longer. In the end the question was solved by the local authorities. They told us the north route was closed due to construction. So south it was. The first few kilometres were in bad condition. But then it looked like the Chinese had stepped in. A wide, smooth tarmac road followed the curves of the river. What a breath of fresh air! We blasted the last 100 km along the Afghan border until the road curved inlands. Here enormous dust clouds created by the road works totally cut us of off any fresh air. Meanwhile my stomach started playing up. I battled through the roadworks, the sand and the dust until the group was reunited in the first village. I was happy to see them but something seemed off, they were parked weirdly and there were too many people standing around. Then it became clear that one of the men had been in an accident, a car suddenly turned while he was overtaking it. His foot was hurting and the car had incurred some serious scratches. We waited for the support car and the police. In the end the damage to the local car was paid off, the bike put on the trailer and the rider in the back of the car. We rode a bit further and then stopped for lunch. By now I felt really bad, so instead of eating I slept on a bench in the restaurant. Halfway through my dreams I was disturbed. We had to hurry, the president of the country was coming this way and they would soon be closing this road too. Oh the logic! Reluctantly I got back on my bike, fuelled up and we all set course to Dushanbe. The roads from here were good, but it was still over 200km. The short nap had revived me somewhat and with new energy I opened the throttle. After the stunning mountains, the views of yellow brown fields and emptiness was hardly entertaining. I was counting down every kilometre, my body started to feel worse and worse. Then, when I assumed there were still some 80 kilometers to cover, a road sign said “Dushanbe 20”. I checked the GPS and indeed, a futile 17 km between me and the destination. Oh yeah!!! 30 minutes later I rode through the gates of Green House hostel and collapsed on the nearest couch. I couldn’t sit, my ass hurt so bad from the appalling roads, my stomach seemed to have turned into 17 knots, but I was here. Safely arrived in Dushanbe. That were the Pamirs, another literal highpoint on this trip.

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    September 28, 2016

    Last night the rest of the crazy travellers from the Pamirs arrived. We met up at breakfast and shared stories about the ridiculous road conditions. They did the 600 km trip from Khorog by car in one go. They also felt like they’d been tumbled around in a washing machine for 13 hours. After breakfast we all did our embassy runs. I went to apply for a Turkmen transit visa. With all the necessary colour copies and a big smile I entered the embassy. The lady was super helpful and spoke perfect English. She promised to send the outcome of the application, in about a week, by email so I could start travelling into Uzbekistan. Now all I could do was cross my fingers and hope for the best. The group reunited at the hostel before heading to the tourist attractions. First up, the world’s largest flagpole (wonder what this country wants to compensate for here…;) Later the world’s largest teahouse, which turned out to be an entertainment centre with a cinema, bowling alleys and the fanciest ever supermarket where the staff pushes your trolley. However, there was nowhere to drink tea! So instead we had a picnic in a park with an old Sovjet fair, including giant swings and a beaten up ferris wheel.

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    September 29 – October 2 2016

    I stayed in the comfort of Green House hostel for a few more days. There is finally the option to cook great meals, which we take full advantage off. We also figure out the password to the best wifi in town. So we do a daily coffee run to the Sheraton hotel and spent a good chunk of our time being connected to the outside world, uploading photos and catching up with family and friends. Slowly the group that met in the Pamirs starts to break apart. Two take off to Kazakhstan, however one returns within half a day. She didn’t know that as a Polish national she couldn’t get a visa on arrival. Oops! She gets deported back to Dushanbe where we try to sheer her up with a giant strawberry cake. The days in Dushanbe are a little bit like being at home. Good facilities, good people and good fun.

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  12. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
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    Great story, and incredible persistence, in for the conclusion. As you have been experiencing, mechanical things do have their limits!
  13. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Thanks for the great replies and encouragements again!
    Here, before I leave the Stans, the latest update :)

    October 3, 2016

    A new week, a new country. I leave The Green house hostel, Dushanbe and Tajikistan behind and arrive at the border with Uzbekistan. This is a crossing I’ve been warned about. You’re not allowed to take certain medications in, no provocative pictures and certainly no porn. Now I knew my devices were clean of the latter two, and I did a thorough check of the meds last night. So when I arrived at the border I wasn’t at all worried. I hoped my usual border tactics of incredible friendliness, big smiles and far-going cooperation might shave an hour or so of the process. However the guards seemed pretty bored and were all too happy to watch every single video on my laptop and phone, go through most of my belongings and all together take over two hours before letting me go. They were friendly and curious about the trip, as well as suspicious about the whereabouts of the allusive husband I must have as a 27 year old. Altogether it wasn’t a bad experience, but it just took so long. Around lunchtime they decided they had other priorities and send me on my way. There were still over 400 km between the border and Bukhara, today’s destination. So I opened the throttle. The roads were mainly good tarmac. The occasional dusty stretch of roadworks slowed down the overall speed and about 10 checkpoints forced short breaks in the ride. So when the sun started to get close to the horizon the GPS said: 150km to your destination. Damn. I considered staying somewhere, but in Uzbekistan you have to stay at a hotel and register every night… (or so I’d been told, it seems now that this might not be true, but the exact rules are somewhat unclear…) I was pretty much in no-mans-land, and going back 50 km to the last city was clearly not happening. Instead I cleaned my vizier of the accumulated dust, reduced the speed, held on tight and just went for it. The roads were decent, but pitch black. It was hard to distinguish between the dusty brownish tarmac and the sandy side of the road. Especially traffic oncoming with their high beams aimed straight at me made the trip rather treacherous. The best thing to do, aim just right of them, keep your eye on the (once white) line in the middle for as long as possible and have faith in the universe. In 150 dark kilometers I only went slightly off the road twice and had to break hard to avoid some concrete pillars when the road suddenly swerved to the left. That’s a good score, if I may say so. In Bukhara the GPS took me straight to a hostel where some of the guys from the Pamir posse were also staying. Soft bed, warm room, food, a hot shower and good people. Home sweet home!

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    October 4 & 5, 2016

    Bukhara is a city of history on the old Silk Road. The buildings around town date back to over 500 years ago and have long been a magnet for tourists. The old fort, the mosques, schools and minarets are all build from typical yellow sandstone and decorated with blue tile mosaic. The hot golden sun plays with the colours to make the experience even more surreal. It’s beautiful. Like walking through an endless museum. Getting lost in this city for two days is a perfect waste of time. Towards the end of day two I received an answer to long lasting predicament: What was wrong with Peter’s bike (see a few posts back where we pull apart a carburettor on the side of a mountain…) Joeri and Peter had made up lost time and we caught up on biking adventures. They were still not sure what had exactly caused the issue, but a new carburettor solved it. Two cyclists from the low lands arrived and completed the Dutch delegation. Together we spend the night eating pizza, talking travel and watching drunk Uzbeks dance.

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    October 6, 2016

    Time to move on. With the days on the visa ticking away like seconds on a time bomb I needed to make my way North. Khiva is the destination. It is a mere 450 km of good roads, so that shouldn’t pose any issues. Wrong! The cars and trucks in Uzbekistan drive on gas. I leisurely left Bukhara, thinking I’d fuel up on the way out of town. I stopped at every fuel station that advocates having petrol, the first 7 were a miss. I stopped at every car garage and small store sporting oil cans by the road, they invariably pointed me to the next place some 5 kilometers down the road. This pointing and motioning continued for 40 km. Then a group of men claimed there wouldn’t be any fuel for the next 400km. With the results of my current quest it started to look like it… But when they announced they could get some fuel for three times the normal price. I got the hint. I declined the offer with my widest smile and climbed back on my steed. There would be fuel somewhere, my spare tank would take me another 200 km if need be and by then things would work out. At checkpoint number who-knows-how-much I decided to use these forced interactions with the Uzbek lawmen to my advantage. Low and behold, they knew for sure there would be petrol in the town 50 km from here. Who could be more trustworthy then some Central Asian cops? I entered the desert as the fuel light came on. But the police were right, 50 km later, with the tank dead empty, there was finally the possibility to top it up. Filled with joy and 80 octane fuel I continued the journey across the barren sandy flats. Only a camel crossing the road broke the monotony of the Uzbek desert. Where most bikers hate these kind of boring days I get pleasantly lost in my thoughts, jumping from long-ago memories to plans for the future. The day goes by, the sun starts its decent and I’m up for another petrol hunt. This time it only takes asking for fuel 5 times before a shed door is opened and liquid of a questionable quality is siphoned from a big blue barrel into a 10 litre water container and is then decanted into the Chook Chaser. This is ample supply to take me to Khiva. I arrived in the old city just as the sun touched the horizon. While looking at the multitude of colours in the sky I realised how beautiful the world is and how lucky I am to be exploring it with this little motorised machine.

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    October 7, 2016

    Let’s check out another ancient city with remarkable architecture. Khiva, like Bukhara, is a city on the old silk road. The rich architecture is also very similar. Beautiful buildings, minarets and a lot of blue tile mosaic. Again the souvenir sellers dominate the streets. It’s touristy, but it’s easy to see why, the place is pretty special. I walk around, see a few buildings, take a lot of pictures and climb up to the top of one of the minarets. The view is amazing. Unfortunately most of the old buildings house museums. This means there is an entrance fee for each and every one of them… To avoid the stream of tourists, and the entrance fees, I decide to walk to the less crowded areas of the walled city. A lot of people live within the old city and one of the families invites me in their home for lunch. We talk in broken English and a few words of Russian. But when I pull out my phone and start showing pictures of the past year there are no words needed. Each photo says more than a thousand words. It’s such a nice afternoon, drinking tea, eating bread, eggs and sunflower seeds. It has been too long since I had a simple experience with local people like that! Later that night it only got better. Peter and Joeri arrived in the same hotel and we went for dinner together. While we were sipping our soups we observed the 3 men at the table across the restaurant. On their table were multiple dishes with food, a big bowl of fruit, a bottle of vodka, a shisha and many other things. Just when we were guessing the occasion for a feast like this we were invited over. It appeared that one of the men was the owner of the restaurant, the other two were business partners. The men gladly shared the food and with every new dish we absolutely had to take shot of vodka. They spoke little English. However the restaurant owner had a female friend on the other side of the country who could translate. Every time his English was failing him he grabbed his phone, called this “beautiful girl” in the capital to translate, and then continued the conversation. We laughed at his translating method and drunk jokes until the men announced they were going back to their hotel. Stuffed with food and enriched with another experience we left the restaurant.

    DSC04557.jpg
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  14. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
  15. Stirlo

    Stirlo Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    41
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Please tell me you're writing a book when you get home...?? It will go right next to Ted Simon and Ewan and Charile on the shelf:-)
    What an amazing trip, always looking forward to the next update like so many others here.
    Safe travels..
  16. Ruud109

    Ruud109 Dutch in Barcelona

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Oddometer:
    380
    Location:
    Barcelona, Spain
    Awesome stories and pics, thanks for sharing once more!

    Not sure what your route back home to the Netherlands will be. I imagine you will not loop around to Spain, but if you would do get in touch please.

    Ruud
  17. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Wow, thanks for all the encouraging replies!
    @ Ruud, sorry I won't make it to Spain on this trip. Reaching NL before xmas is already a bit of a rush. But there is always next time!
    @Stirlo yes there will be a book. As a matter of fact there will be two. One just about Aus and then a bigger one about the Aus to Holland trip. I'm flattered and a little speechless you'll be putting me in the company of the big men. And looking forward to be sandwiched between Mr. Simon and Charlie & Ewan :p

    So and then the trip continued to a country I wasn't planning on going...

    October 8, 2016

    Since my visa for Turkmenistan was declined I now had to race to the border with Kazakhstan. We started the day riding together and asking around for fuel. It seemed that the fuel scarcity was only getting worse. Eventually a taxi driver told us to follow him to a house on the other end of town. Fuel arrived from what looked like the living room of an unremarkable house. Joeri pointed out you could visit, what used to be, the Aral Sea. We said goodbye again when the men went to see a museum while I ticked off some kilometres in northern direction. The roads were better than expected and the detour to Muynaq could easily be made today. It is a former port town, but now it is the middle of the desert. The river that once flowed into the Aral Sea was diverted for irrigation. Without this water supply the sea dried out. Large ships are now rusting away in the middle of the desert, quite a surreal view. I stayed in a little unofficial homestay. An 18 year old guy, immaculately dressed and English speaking, showed up when I was taking pictures of the ships. Figuring my 10 dollars for staying the night there would probably go straight to his university payments, I couldn’t refuse.

    DSC04595.jpg

    October 9, 2016

    The tank was almost empty, so I started the day with another fuel hunt. Regardless of who I asked, the answer was the same. No fuel in Muynaq. Luckily I had the spare fuel to get me back to the main road. Here some locals pointed to a fuel station. At first they denied having any fuel but then an older man started yelling instructions to the younger guys and all of a sudden I could get as much fuel as I wanted. Fully stocked I hit the road. Again the tarmac was a lot smoother than anticipated and the kilometres quickly ticked away. One more fuel quest and I would be at the border. This time it was easy, there was only one option. Luckily they still had some fuel, but it was sold for almost double the normal price. After establishing that the next fuel stop was over 250 km away I realised I had no choice. After a long discussion the lady dropped the price a little and I took 10 liters of the precious liquid. A Russian overlanding family gave the latest road and border update and after a quick photo session they went south, I continued north. Many camels stood along the road, making the otherwise boring road, a super fun experience. Of the last 150 km to reach the border only about 30 were really bad. This made that the border was reached just before sunset. Perfect. This time the Uzbeks hardly took an interest in this female tourist. They checked my medication out of routine, but were more interested in making jokes about Amsterdam’s red light district. They even gave me a customs patch, with the message it was strictly prohibited to put it on my jacket. Guess where that is going ;) On the Kazakh side it all went even quicker. So by the time it was actually dark I rode into the next country. I had dinner at a little café next to the border gate and then tried my luck at the world’s worst road. This was clearly not one to do in the dark. I took the first turn off this main goat-track. At a spot some 500 meters from the road I pitched the tent by the light of the moon and got ready for a very cold night.

    DSC04626.jpg

    October 10, 2016

    I woke up just after sunrise, it was freezing. Inside the tent I could see my breath forming little clouds. Brrr! This was no temperature to get out of the comfort of the sleeping bag. I read a book and had breakfast before getting dressed to face the day. When I opened the zipper there was nothing around the tent, only the toy-size cars passing on the horizon. By now the sun was quickly warming up the surroundings and my hands. I packed up and jumped on the bike. To my concern it didn’t start. Must be the crappy Uzbek fuel! I tried a few more times, then waited for a minute and tried again. Luckily it started! I was on my way again. The first 70 kilometers were the absolute worst highway ever. More potholes then road, deep sand, dust, the whole lot. But once the first town was reached the conditions bettered ten-fold. There was a petrol station that sold 92 octane fuel. Never did I expect to be so excited about the right fuel coming out of a hose, instead of questionable liquid coming out of an old water bottle. From here it was 460 km to Aktau. Highway, with a few dusty roadworks. Throttle open, gaze fixed on the horizon and an audiobook to keep me company. There were hundreds of camels along the road and even in the middle of the villages. Halfway the landscape changed from endless flats to beautiful bright white rocky hills. The sunset over the endless fields was amazing, and not much later I reached Aktau. I found a place through couchsurfing and asked the locals for directions. This was the first time on the entire trip that the free maps from maps.me were failing to guide me to the destination. However old fashioned asking and pointing, even without speaking the same language, did the trick. Laura, my host was waiting for me. She had cooked a delicious welcome dinner. What a treat after a 550 km non-stop day!

    DSC04631.jpg

    October 11, 2016

    The main purpose of today was to apply for a transit visa for Azerbaijan. It was a bit of a wait at the consulate, but once it was my turn the people were friendly. They send me off to the bank to pay. This caused some difficulties since the bank-girl didn’t speak a word of English. She was also the only one in the bank who seemed to be working, while there was a 15-head line. The problem seemed to be that instead of having to pay 20 dollars for the visa I had to pay in Kazakh tenge. But when I said exchange (which she probably didn’t understand) there was still an issue… Eventually, after a Russian lady came to the rescue, it came out that I had to pay 21 dollars, visa and transaction fee. The whole ordeal took nearly 15 minutes, excluding the waiting time beforehand. I left the bank with a lot of angry looks my way. Sorry people! I hurried back to the consulate and submitted the paperwork. Fingers crossed the visa will arrive before the weekend! Now it was time to find some wifi, catch up with the world, and with Peter and Joeri who just arrived in Aktau.

    DSC04654.jpg
    Stirlo, 10ecjed, Seba1 and 1 other person like this.
  18. enfielddnepr

    enfielddnepr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    216
    Location:
    Assen, Netherlands
    The meeting with the people whilst travelling.. i miss it..
    at home i feel more lonely then when being on the road.
    But your story, i mis the encounters with stupid/bad people? You are bound to encounter these sometimes?
  19. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    @enfielddnepr To be honest, 99% of people are good. I had my first encounter with some less-good ones a few days ago. On which more in the update after this one...

    October 12 & 13, 2016

    After the continuous travel in Uzbekistan, the border race and the paperwork challenge it was time to relax for a day or two. I rode around Aktau and had a look at the Caspian Sea, the first sizeable body of water on my journey since leaving Thailand. It is actually the world’s biggest lake, but it is salty and massive, so it might as well be a sea. My host Laura was fabulous. On Thursday night she invited me to her parent’s house. As a thank-you for her hospitality I did some shopping and planned to cook her and her daughter dinner. But when I walked into the house it was obvious I wouldn’t be allowed near the kitchen. “Tonight you are our guest again” There were some relatives from another city and we were all seated in the living room, on the floor. Not much later a big plate with meat, sheets of pasta and onion was carried in. Although I’ve been eating mostly vegetarian for a long time, this was not the moment to bring this fact up. We were ordered to dig in. The dish is called “five fingers” and with our right hand we gathered mouthfuls of this Kazakh traditional food. It was delicious. Then one of the sons came around with a jug of water and a bowl to wash our hands. After this came the “soup”. Basically the broth left over after cooking the dish. It was such an authentic experience. After dinner we relaxed for a little until I was called for tea. When I walked into the next room I couldn’t believe my eyes. The table was overflowing with food. Two large fruit bowls dominated the sight, there were plates of fish, meat, cheese, dried fruits, dates, cakes, cookies… You name it, it was there. And here I was, thinking we already had dinner! It was again delicious. Laura taught me about the Kazakh traditions and foods. She translated the conversations and the toast I was asked to make. “To families and hospitality, thank you for inviting me here and sharing your food and traditions. Because no matter where we are in the world, it’s the people who make us feel at home”

    DSC04678.jpg

    October 14, 2016

    Good news, the visa for Azerbaijan is ready! I went to the embassy to pick it up and then to the port to check when the next ferry would go. Again, I was lucky. There is a boat tonight. I race back to the city, stop by at Joeri and Peter’s hotel to say goodbye and then to the ferry ticket office. Hereafter I race across town to the house to pick up my stuff. When I grab the doorhandle however, it doesn’t move. Not a millimetre! In peak hour I now have to go all the way back into town, to Laura’s parents, to get the key. They are so helpful and understanding, even when we can’t actually exchange any words. Laura’s father goes with me, opens the door and helps to carry my bags to the bike. I shop for some food for the journey and then rush to the port, the vessel should take of in about 30 minutes. But when I arrive at the ferry terminal no one seems to be in a hurry. “Ferry, yes maybe today, maybe tomorrow” It’s a phrase that was repeated quite a few times over the next hours. The necessary paperwork is organised anyways and then I have to pay the port fee in a little bank office. However they are closed from 7.30 until 8.30 and when I come back at 8.30 the lady tells me there is no internet from 8 PM until 1 AM. The logic of all of this goes far beyond my comprehension… Meanwhile there is news on the ferry. It is supposedly leaving at 3 AM. The waiting passengers, a family of three from Azerbaijan, a Taiwanese couple and I are sceptical but happy. We talk, hang on the rather uncomfortable chairs to hide from the pouring rain outside and watch the minutes tick away. At 1 I go to the office and low and behold, I can pay my bill. With little else to do I put my earplugs in, use two scarfs to create a pillows, rest my head on my own shoulder, stretch my legs out, fold my arms and close my eyes. Despite the uncomfortable chairs I fall asleep within seconds.

    DSC04679.jpg

    October 15, 2016

    Fred, the Taiwanese guy wakes me up. “The boat is leaving, we have to hurry up” I struggled to open my eyes, it’s still pitch black outside. “What time is it?” Apparently it was 6 AM. We followed a uniformed man to immigration. When I asked about customs and where to process the papers for the bike he looked very annoyed, and got someone to translate that this should have been done before. I explained that I asked 3 different people if the papers were ready, they all said something along the lines of later, when the boat is here, tomorrow… So all of a sudden there was a rush to get stamps and copies. Eventually, two offices, 3 different stamps, on 5 different documents later I jumped on the bike. But when I turned the key there was no life. Nothing, at all, whatsoever. Damn, this is not the time for engine trouble! In the rain, through the dark, I pushed the bike across the port and into the boat. We all had our own cabins, with an inviting looking mattress. So collectively the passengers continued their broken up night. Around 9 we were called for breakfast, we were still at the port. Stacey, Fred and I went to the top deck we were just in time to witness the departure of the boat, fifteen hours later then we first thought! Now there was a serious issue I had to attend to. My poor lifeless Chook Chaser. I asked the crew to allow me below decks, and immediately received the help of two of them. When I mentioned battery they came running with a multimeter. The machine displayed the inconvenient news that the battery had zero charge. How is that possible? One of the men took the battery away, to charge it. To me it seemed impossible that it was just flat, with absolutely zero charge… I was sure it must be broken. But let’s give it a go. After this fixing session the day ended for me. We hit some rougher seas and the only way I could keep from spewing my guts out was to lay very still in my bed…

    DSC04710.jpg

    October 16, 2016

    In the morning the sea hadn’t changed much. The ship rocked and rolled all over the place, as did my stomach. I skipped breakfast, stayed under the tiger and leopard print blankets and did my best to avoid going to the toilet. The toilets were communal, didn’t really flush and were also in the middle of the boat. If there is one thing you don’t want to do while sea sick, it’s being in the middle of the boat, balancing over a toilet, breathing in the fumes of its day old contents. No no no, not good! Eventually the sea got calmer. Lunch was the first meal in 24 hours. Then some crew proudly told me that the battery was charged. “Like new!” We went to the cargo deck and put it in place. When I connected it however, the fuel pump started running without the key in the ignition. Really odd, but it does explain why the battery was dead. But after a few times the odd fuel pump things was gone. So let’s hope it stays away! We learned that the ship wasn’t heading for Baku, but instead would dock in Alat, a port town some 70 km away from the capital. That also meant that, after hours of paperwork, payments and lots of tea, I had to ride to Baku in the dark. The bike was going, but it didn’t quite feel right. On full throttle I could still only do 80km/h sometimes it would lose power and it cut out at traffic lights. I intensely relived when I made it to the hostel safely. They had some underground parking for the Chook Chaser too. Such a luxury!

    October 17, 2016

    First things first, I had a quick look at the bike. Just by eye it all looked pretty much in order. The troubles seemed to be electrical, not my strong point. The bike still started, and would run reasonably well. The temporary import for the bike was only valid for three days, after that I would need to pay a fine. So I decided to spend one day in Baku, the capital and then have two days to limp-ride to the border. By complete accident an old colleague from Amsterdam was also in Baku. We met up for lunch and later I visited the old walled city centre with Stacey and Fred, the Taiwanese backpackers from the boat. It was a socially and culturally nice day. Only the weather was horrible, the rain poured down the entire day! Fingers crossed it will not be like that tomorrow!

    DSC04724.jpg

    October 18, 2016

    But it was. I could hear the drops ticking on the window when I woke up. However, there was no choice, I had to ride to that border. After breakfast and packing I started the bike and hoped for the best. The road the hostel was on was completely flooded and the rest of the city wasn’t much better. On top of that it was hell to navigate. Due to the rain I couldn’t put my phone on the handlebars, and for some unknown reason the voice navigation didn’t work. On top of that the bike was performing worse and worse. It started with being less responsive to the throttle, but soon it was hiccupping and I struggled to get going at traffic lights. Is this getting dangerous? Should I stop? I decided to try to make it to the highway, from there it was only straight and no traffic lights. But once I finally entered the highway the bike did next to nothing. I had to stop and start it again several times. This wasn’t going to work. I rolled down the hill, found what looked like a tyre place and asked in my best Azeri if I could use their workshop to have a dry place to fix the bike. Well the workshop wasn’t theirs, so I couldn’t. However within a minute 5 guys appeared and lifted the Chook Chaser into a small office. Here we collectively started the diagnostic process. Everything was pulled apart until there were no other option than: It’s electric. We put it all back together and with a lot of effort and stopping and starting I rode the 3 kilometers to an electrical expert. The shop was not more than a garage box on a muddy back street. We pulled apart the bike again. And first tested the fuel pump compression. No issues there, but in the process a lot of fuel came out. “Diesel” screamed one of the guys, diesel, diesel said more of them. No way, that’s impossible! We drained the tank and put some 95 in there and sure enough the bike started. Even better, it showed no signs of any faults anymore. Still it was hard to believe I would have had diesel in the tank…But it’s an easy fix! Relieved we put the bike back together. None of the men want money for their services, so the bill is settled in handshakes, photos and a hug. One of the avid helpers invited me to stay at his house, he didn’t speak any English and neither does any of his family. But that doesn’t bother him. When we arrive I’m treated like a queen. His wife, who is actually younger than me, serves up tea and cake and later a most beautiful dinner. All while I play with their 7 year old son, using international sign language and encouraging sounds. I show them photos of the trip and together we have a great evening.
    10ecjed likes this.
  20. TwilightZone

    TwilightZone Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    7,081
    Location:
    Behind the Redwood Curtain
    >"No issues there, but in the process a lot of fuel came out. “Diesel” screamed one of the guys,
    diesel, diesel said more of them. No way, that’s impossible! We drained the tank and put some 95"

    Good to find that one. Cheap fix !